Laverne Cox announced as A&O Spring Speaker

    Make sure to catch A&O’s Spring Speaker live if you’ve got time because this is one you won’t be able to binge watch. 

    Rainbow Alliance, One Book One Northwestern and A&O collaborated to bring actress, producer and transgender advocate Laverne Cox to Pick-Staiger on April 28. Best known for her role on Netflix's “Orange is the New Black,” Cox will be speaking on issues of race, gender and class.

    Cox first rose to popularity in 2013 for her Emmy nominated portrayal of inmate Sophia, and has since gone on to win one of Glamour’s Woman of the Year awards for her successes as a transgender rights advocate. She will be speaking at Northwestern as a part of a cross-country tour.

    Most recently, Cox has guest starred in “The Mindy Project,” and is signed on for the next two seasons for “Orange is the New Black,” but A&O has been working on bringing her to campus long before that. Rainbow Alliance and A&O started collaborating a year ago, according to A&O’s Director of Speakers April Quioh, a Communication senior.

    Quioh said the former presidents of A&O and Rainbow Alliance contacted Cox and then reached out to One Book One Northwestern Program Coordinator Nancy Cunniff to collaborate. This year’s book, Whistling Vivaldi, covers many of the same themes of diversity that Cox will touch on in her speech. 

    Bringing Cox to school is a step in A&O’s effort to educate the Northwestern community and diversify the speakers they bring to campus. Emily Howell, Communication senior and Co-Director of Marketing and Media at A&O, hopes to step away from their usual formula of bringing comedians to campus.

    “It’s nice to be able to use our reach that we’ve already established across campus to bring those issues to the forefront,” Howell said. “Not that comedy is bad.”

    Although the One Book One Northwestern selection is sometimes forgotten shortly after the school year starts, A&O and Rainbow Alliance hope the speech will be a part of a continuing conversation on campus. 

    “A lot of One Book One Northwestern’s events kind of cater to freshmen,” said Abiola Aderonmu, Communication Senior and A&O’s Co-Director of Marketing and Media. “This’ll be an opportunity for upperclassmen to think about the themes of the book once again.” 

    As a part of opening and continuing a dialogue, attendees will be able to submit questions for Cox in advance of the event. All questions will be pre-screened to avoid anything flagrantly inappropriate. 

    Both A&O and Rainbow Alliance agree that being entertaining, informing students and inciting discussion do not have to be mutually exclusive. “Laverne Cox is a successful entertainer, but she doesn’t shy away from talking about a lot of issues that people aren’t aware about,” said Weinberg freshman Sylvia Regan and Rainbow Alliance’s publicity chair. “She’s a brilliant speaker, just really motivational and very meaningful to a lot of people.”

    Tickets will go on sale at 10 a.m. on April 21, and students must present a WildCARD to be admitted. Those who want to attend should buy tickets quickly, because past speaker events have sold out, according to Quioh.

    Editor's note: This post was updated at 8:25 p.m. for clarity.


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